Quebec

June 9th, 2012 § 0 comments

I’ve not been paying enough attention to the student protests in Quebec. There’s an overview at The Disorder of Things. It’s about tuition fees, the right to protest and an attempt to bring down the traditionally-strong student unions:

downtown Montreal has been plunged into an actual state of exception, warranting the full force of the law (send the tape to Agamben). Very worryingly, the authorities had recourse to anti-terror legislation to prosecute four students who detonated smoke bombs in the Montreal Subway a few weeks ago and the police used their newly-found discretionary power in the application of an ancient municipal rule last night, which resulted in the arrest of over 500 people, who were fined 600 bucks each (somebody’s got to pay for all that overtime).

The author insists that most of the politics here is specific to Quebec, though some of his commentary is much more generally applicable:

The strike has also sparked a wave of left romanticism, which, for someone steeped in the tradition of radical doubt, sits somewhere in between the comical and the genuinely inspirational. I admit I’ve been forced to reconsider the power of an ironic moustache versus good old street protest. I think that the current generation of students, equipped as it is with a more sophisticated understanding of power, will nonetheless try and reclaim the terms of political discourse instead of spending its time deconstructing them. Words like democracy, equality, rights and freedom seem to have a less hollow ring than before in various parts of the world. Amongst the Quebecois urban youth, there is a genuine sense that signifiers like “democracy” and “fairness” have been totality baffled by the current elite and by several decades of persistent neoliberal admonishing.

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